Injuries, financial issues, youth movements offer Mets intriguing buy-low candidates

(Editor's note: this piece was written by Mike Mattone)diamond1 As the burners of the Hot Stove begin to warm, and general managers met in Chicago, speculation for trades are swirling faster than the winds of the Windy City.   Every GM, assistant, media guy, bell hop, Starbucks Barista, cab driver, and bartender at Murphy’s Bleachers, Howl at the Moon, and Lion Head Pub/Apartment Bar Lounge (the places I frequented in my Pink Polo when I went to watch the Mets get pasted by the Cubs in August) knows Omar Minaya needs to make a big time splash this winter.   The only question is when the splash will be made, and what key players are brought into Queens next year. I’ll say this about the GM meetings:   I wish I could go.   I love Chicago.   Great city.   The bars, the Navy Pier, the atmosphere of Wrigleyville; I hope the Wilpon Family tries their hardest to turn Willets Point into Wrigleyville East.   Heck, I even met Omar Minaya in 2007 in Chicago.   (7am the Saturday before Glavine’s 300th, I sat to wait for my dad and little brother to go to breakfast in the lobby of the Westin Michigan Ave., and lo and behold Omar sits across from me with a morning paper and a coffee.   Nice little moment.)   Unfortunately I could not attend the meetings: guess the invite got lost in the mail.   But if I did, I would tell Omar the following.Omar, your fan base, although fickle, is smart.   You are operating on a tight budget.   Don’t go blow money on one or two guys who might not play up to their contracts.   Take the farm system that everyone is saying is better than people think, and use it to buy low on guys who can pan out with a change of scenery.   Think Jeff Francoeur, and build on it.   Go trade Luis Castillo for Milton Bradley and spin him for an Overbay (as rumored).   Take two guys who probably won’t develop under our vaunted Prospect Mis-Management program and bring in a Gil Meche type to be a number three starter in the National League instead of pressuring him to be a number one in the AL.   And most importantly, take big time names in our farm system that will turn into Lastings Milledge/Alex Escobar/Generation K if they stay with the Mets, and give them to franchises that are more adept at developing talent to get proven talent in return, especially if they are buy-low candidates.   Below are five buy-low guys (including Meche as mentioned above)   who can make a big difference with the Mets without costing them a nine figure contract.
  1. Gil Meche:   Since I mentioned him, I’ll go in depth here first.   Meche last year finished 6-10 with a 5.09 ERA, and finished the year on the DL.   Sucks, right?   Not so fast.   In the three previous years his ERA was 4.48, 3.67, 3.98 with a cumulative record of 34-32 on American League teams that finished well below .500.     Before the All-Star break (and his injury issues) Meche had a 4.50 ERA, a quality GB/FB ratio, and an unusually high BABIP against, which will likely regress to the mean in the next few years.   With $24 million owed to him in the next two years, the Mets could probably get KC to take Castillo and a low-profile young arm for Meche and a few million bucks, opening the door for O-Hud and getting an experienced arm to have a bounce back year in Citi Field.
  2. Conor Jackson:   Another injury guy, this one losing his spot on the depth chart to younger players in Arizona.   He has a career .281/.361/.431 in three full seasons of ABs.   In the past three years, he is .302/.410/.488 against lefties.   He can play leftfield and first base.   Look at that, Danny Murphy, you got yourself a platoon mate.   Jackson can likely be had for a decent young arm who likely would flame out in Binghamton if not traded.
  3. AJ Pierzynski:   Tyler Flowers might be ready for the White Sox.   He might need another year. Regardless, the Pyrex man is 9 years older than Flowers, and Ken Williams might want to trade the 32 year old catcher now before paying him $6.25 million to platoon with a potential young stud behind the dish.   It might take more to get AJ to come home (he is a native of Bridgehampton, NY), but for a catcher who hit .300 last year with 14 homers, and is a career .286 hitter with a career 4.20 CERA (Catcher’s ERA) in mostly American League time, trading for him to catch Johan and company will be more than worth it.
  4. Andy Sonnastine:   Yes, he has a 6.77 ERA last year.   Yes, he got bombed by the Yankees, Red Sox, and other big time offenses throughout his career.   But look at the potential of Sonnastine, who is WAYYY past due in Tampa Bay.   He is 26.   He is a year removed from a 13-9 season with a 4.39 ERA.   His stuff (fringe fastball, great change, mixes location well, only 97 walks in 76 career games) screams young quality #3-4 starter in the National League, and that’s exactly what you stockpile to fill your rotation instead of Livan Hernandez, Freddy Garcia, and the rest of the dregs Omar brought in last year.   Convince the Rays they can develop a raw young talent, and Andy is all yours.
  5. Josh Hamilton:   The Big Fish in this equation.   He had an injury plagued year.   He had an unfortunate relapse with his alcohol problem.   The Rangers are planning on selling their team, which speaks to financial unrest within the organization.   They have Nelson Cruz, Pedro Borbon, Brandon Boggs, Justin Smoak coming up, and are likely to re-sign Marlon Byrd.   Money that Hamilton wants will likely go to pitching.   Dangle F-Mart (who is injury plagued in his own right) as the centerpiece of a deal for Hamilton, who is only 28 years old, and you might have yourselves a younger, more athletic, more powerful Matt Holliday at a much lower cost.   Trade a potential future superstar for a potential superstar right now.   That’s what the big market teams do when they need to win.   New York is a big market.   Go make the phone call, Omar.
These, I firmly believe, would be five quality acquisitions in the re-vamping of the Mets.   Only Hamilton would require top young talent to leave, and if we make these deals and sign O-Dog and Lackey, maybe the Canyon of Heroes will be filled with Orange in Blue in 2010 instead of pinstripes.